World’s largest library with over 150 million cultural treasures,including around 14 million books, manuscripts and items created before Christ was born.
Although the British Library is a contemporary building, built in 1998, the collection itself was founded when the British Museum opened in 1753. As time went by, many great names did their research in the famous reading room. These included Karl Marx, Charles Dickens, George Bernard Shaw and Virginia Woolf. However, by around 1910, the Museum’s library was badly in need of more space and the nearest place available was a run-down goods yard west of St Pancras station.
Close to the British Library is the beautiful Victorian St. Pancras Station and the comparison of the two is “interesting”, to say the least.
Some Popular Things to See at the British Library
Up until the 15th century every book in Europe had to be copied by hand. This meant that only the well-off could afford books. Then along came Johann Gutenberg , a German from a wealthy family who came up with a way to produce books mechanically. This led to them being affordable for the ordinary man in the street. A number of bibles were printed, two of which are in the British Library.
The Magna Carta is one of the most important legal documents in English history. In 1215 a document was produced which was to have an enormous influence on the newly developing English legal system. It was forced upon the king by a group of his barons as an attempt to limit the monarch’s powers and was signed by both the barons and the king. It promised that laws would be fair and that everyone should have access to the courts, even if they had no money to pay for their defence.
The Lindisfarne Gospels
Lindisfarne is where Christianity was brought to England by monks from Ireland . It is a tiny island in north-east England and it was here, more than 1,200 years ago, that the monks created the fabulous Lindisfarne Gospels. It was originally bound with gold and jewels and is illuminated with full-page portraits of the Evangelists.
Permanent Beatles Exhibition at British Library
There is a Beatles permanent exhibition, a treasure trove of objects and manuscripts to delight any Beatles fan. See John’s scribbled and much rewritten lyrics for Help! and the hand-written lyric sheet of “I Want to Hold Your Hand”. Most recently, a newly-discovered manuscript, in the form of a previously unseen George Harrison lyric, has been added to the exhibition. There are all kind of interesting Beatles memorabilia that are not found anywhere else.
The Diamond Sutra
The world’s earliest dated printed book created in the year 868 during the Tang Dynasty, some 600 years before the the Gutenberg Bibles came on the scene. The word sutra comes from Sanskrit, the ancient language of India and ‘sutra’ means a religious sermon. The book was discovered in a cave in the Gobi desert.
The British Library is at 96 Euston Road next to King’s Cross and St Pancras International stations, Take Underground train to King’s Cross/St Pancras, Euston and Euston Square.